Human breast milk purchased online is being touted as the new fad in muscle-building nutrition, and some fitness enthusiasts in B.C. may be putting down their shaker bottles to pick up baby bottles for a per-workout pump.
Jennifer Rowse, a nutritionist based in Langley, has sold her breast milk on Craigslist to two men who wanted it for “gym purposes,” she told The Province.
“It’s a carbohydrates, a fat and then lastly a protein — I can fully comprehend why they choose that,” she said.
“I understand protein shakes with amino acids to help rebuild muscle, that makes sense to me, but I guess this would be more of a per-workout” drink.
Rowse has donated most of her excess milk to the B.C. Women’s Milk Bank since shortly after her son was born 11 months ago, but she also privately donates or charges $2 an ounce for those interested in paying.
She sterilizes her equipment, gets screened regularly when she donates and is happy to share her health records with buyers and those she donates to privately, she said.
Her son is healthy and well-fed, she added, and she’s put all $700 from her breast milk sales into a college fund for him.
Rowse said she’s privately donated to a young mother who recently underwent a mastectomy, but declined to sell to one man who offered her $1,000 for 20 minutes of wet-nursing.
“I’ve done good things with my milk, so I don’t really mind selling.”
Ali Najafian, a world classic bodybuilding champion, said he knows people who’ve used and traded breast milk at gyms around Vancouver.
Najafian warned against buying it from an unregulated source but said he considers it a good source of nutrition for bodybuilders.
“In the off-season, they can take it more, but when they are restricting their diet and their fat and carbohydrates consumption, they just need to be more careful.”
Jeff Elliott, owner of supplement store Fuel SVN North Vancouver, said there’s chatter of breast milk in the bodybuilding community, but he’s never heard of anyone actually using it.
“I don’t think it’s safe,” Elliott said.
“I think it’s totally unsanitary, but I could see why people are doing it because I could see the health benefits associated with it — boosting growth hormone and natural IGF (insulin-like growth factor) in your body. Absolutely. And boosting your immune system.”
Dr. Mark Lysyshyn, a medical health officer with Vancouver Coastal Health, strongly advises against the purchase of breast milk from unregulated sources.
“You can see why it might be interesting for bodybuilders to try to use it,” Lysyshyn said.
“Our concern is mainly about somebody consuming somebody else’s breast milk or somebody selling their breast milk in an unregulated fashion. Breast milk can transmit a number of viruses like HIV … the hepatitis viruses. It can transmit a number of bacteria and a number of parasites.”
Lysyshyn said excessive human growth hormone obtained through breast milk could cause people to develop arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.
A 2013 study from the journal Pediatrics found that of 101 breast milk samples purchased on a milk-sharing website, 63 per cent were contaminated with staph, 36 per cent with strep and about three-quarters with other bacterial species.
Mark Gharibians, a bodybuilder and co-owner of Core Ten Physical Evolutions, is skeptical anyone is using breast milk during workouts.
“It’s a bit of a myth that probably started about 40 years ago when bodybuilders were experimenting with certain things like that,” said Gharibians, who has been involved in fitness training for 23 years.
“I’ve trained in a lot of different gyms with a lot of different profiles of people … I’ve never once heard of breast milk being used in any way as a performance-enhancing supplement.”
But according to reports from across the globe, some bodybuilders are at least giving it a try.
Last week, Seattle’s KOMO News reported that a new mom was approached by a man in a grocery store who nervously inquired if she’d sell him milk for bodybuilding and Cross-fit.
In 2014, New York Magazine found athletes were using breast milk-sharing sites like Only the Breast.
Other mothers have been selling breast milk on Craigslist in B.C., too.
One is charging $100 for 250 Milli-liters of milk a few days old or $150 for warm, freshly-pumped milk.
The seller claims the “very high quality breast milk” is “very sweet” and “very creamy” — and they’ll even deliver it anonymously.
Health Canada strongly warns against obtaining donor human milk directly from individuals or online, however.
The sale and distribution of human milk for consumption as food is regulated under the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations, which is enforced by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
Health Canada did not respond to requests about whether the act would be enforced against those selling breast milk online.
Constable Brian Montague of the Vancouver Police Department said there would be “no criminal offense for selling” breast milk online.
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